10 Ways to Build and Develop Resilience
In life, everyone encounters hardships.
Some will be big, and others will be small. Whether it’s the loss of a loved one, getting laid off, heartbreak, divorce, or even just putting orange juice in this morning’s cereal instead of milk, there will be tough times.
When these difficult times inevitably arrive, we can either choose to let them swallow us up, or we can choose to keep going and make the best of the cards life has dealt us. Yes, even when there’s orange juice in your cereal.
This is where a very important skill comes in: resilience.
Resilience is the ability to pick yourself back up and move forward after tragedy or challenges. It’s grit. It’s determination. It’s deciding not to quit, and that even if the worst happens, you’ll be okay.
But this important skill is not an innate ability.
Children are not born resilient — as you could probably tell by their fragility and inability to form a sentence — nor do they naturally become proficient at it as they age. Resilience has to be built and developed over time.
Which means us adults have to figure out how to get resilient on our own.
Luckily, resilience can be developed through mindset shifts, practice, and through healthy habits everyone has the ability to implement.
Here are just 10 ways to start building your resilience so you can weather through the hard times life throws your way…orange juice and all.
1. Be Proactive
Resilient people are proactive. This means they face their problems head on. They don’t let problems fester in the corner, growing larger and larger by the day until it becomes an uncontrollable infestation.
Instead, resilient people take immediate action.
The next time you encounter a problem in your life, even a small one (actually, especially the small ones — it’s good to start small!), force yourself to be proactive in fixing the problem.
Rather than spiraling into a storm of negative thoughts about the situation, focus on taking action. Ask yourself: what can I do right now to minimize the damage or fix the issue?
2. Protect Your Downtime
Resilient people are well-rested. They have the energy necessary to confront their problems.
It’s very difficult to be proactive about difficult situations when you’ve been running yourself ragged, fueled by three shots of espresso, and sporting a pair of bags under your eyes.
So practice resilience by simply setting aside time every day for yourself. You can use the time for self-reflection, meditation, or just for some needed TLC. But by protecting your downtime, you’ll have the strength and mental preparedness to focus when issues and challenges cross your path.
3. Change Your Mindset About Adversity
One of the biggest fixes you can make in order to build resilience is to stop thinking about adversity as a problem and think about it as a chance for growth.
Instead of asking “Why is this happening to me?” ask yourself “What can I learn from this?”
This reframing question is powerful because it distracts you from the pain or frustration of the situation and makes you start looking for an answer to an interesting question.
Focusing on how you can grow stronger from a situation is a much more productive use of your brain cells than wallowing in self-pity.
4. Build Relationships
Resilient people know they can’t do everything by themselves.
That’s where close friends and family come in.
Develop strong, healthy relationships with people you trust so you have someone to turn to when you need a shoulder to cry on or a cheerleader to celebrate your successes.
So take time out of your day to put yourself out there and work on your relationships. You’ll be grateful you did when you encounter challenges down the road.
5. Focus on the Present
An easy trick to develop resilience is simply to practice focusing on the present.
Whenever you find yourself bogged down by past mistakes or worried about the future, catch yourself and then refocus on the present.
Mistakes both past and future are not in our control, and thinking about them too much only causes additional stress. Plus, if you think too much about the past or future, that’s energy and time you could be using towards your present — the thing you can control.
So build your resilience up by developing your awareness of your thoughts and feelings and turning them towards the present moment, rather than towards things you can’t change.
6. Know That Life Isn’t Fair
Growing up, your parents or teachers might have told you that “life isn’t fair!” when you really wanted something you couldn’t get.
As a kid, it might have been pretty upsetting.
But as we get older, the idea that life isn’t fair can actually be comforting.
Life isn’t fair — not for anyone! Every human being on this planet experiences hardship. Some more than others, but there are still problems in everyone’s life. You are not alone in pain.
Resilient people realize this about life, and they don’t dwell on wrapping their heads around the fact that something bad has happened. Instead, they know that bad things happen, and they accept them when they come. They know life isn’t fair, and they don’t spend time worrying about it. There’s nothing they can do, so it’s more important to focus on things within their control.
7. Stay Flexible
Resilience may bring to mind images of strong, immovable objects. Like giant boulders. Or a weed growing in a sidewalk crack. You may be imagining any number of things that don’t change despite what goes on around them.
However, this could not be further from the truth.
Resilience actually involves a lot of flexibility and creativity.
Challenges in your life may cause you to have to pivot, to change direction. This doesn’t mean you have to give up on goals or dreams, it just means you may have to reach your goals in a way you hadn’t anticipated before.
Stay creative with your options in life, and you’ll be able to navigate through any difficulty.
8. Focus on What You Can Change
As we’ve touched on a bit so far, one of the best things you can do to build resilience is to focus only on what you can change.
People who constantly blame their environment for their circumstances — whether or not they are right or wrong — definitely never see their circumstances change.
However, resilient people who decide that THEY are the force which can change their own life, do see changes in their circumstances.
A defeated attitude doesn’t help overcome challenges. Only those who rise to the challenge see change and growth. So get rid of that defeatist mindset and accept that you are the one with the power.
9. Be Grateful
Negativity is the greatest killer of resilience.
Practice gratitude in your daily life as much as possible. We all know it’s far too easy to focus on negative things in life — our brains are hardwired to do so and keep us out of danger! But if you know you are not in any immediate danger, try shifting your attention to the good things about a situation.
This, just like anything, becomes easier with practice.
So try writing down three things you’re grateful for every day. You’ll be surprised at how many things you come up with! And you may end up more content with your life as you see your growing list of reasons to be happy.
10. Practice Resilience In the Wild
One way to develop resilience is to seek out challenges in your life on purpose.
For example, try starting a 30-day challenge. Or apply to jobs until you have 50 rejection letters. Or even try taking cold showers every day- heck, you might even end up enjoying it!
Putting yourself out there again and again will teach you to not be so afraid of failure and will show you that no matter what, you can make it through a lot of things unharmed.
Resilience may be one of the most important skills we can learn in our lives. To be able to overcome adversity and frustration and hurt and heartbreak is an invaluable skill — because all these challenges will inevitably come our way eventually.
So if we can be ready for them — if we can be resilient, in whatever small way possible — then we can spend less time affected by things we lose or lose out on, and more time experiencing the joy of the amazing things in our life that we do have.